The Edmonton Oilers are now 2-1-1 in the team’s first four games with Ken Hitchcock at the helm. Fans are beginning to understand that Hitchcock is hockey for “we’re going to work really hard to limit progress and that’s all the time, no exceptions” every night. Even with the world’s most fantastic hockey player revving his engines, Hitch is just going to make sure all the lights are turned off and the doors are locked. You’ll get used to it. Honest.
The Athletic Edmonton is going to bring it all season long. Proud to be part of a lineup that is ready to cover the coming year. Outstanding coverage from a large group, including Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis, Lowetide, Minnia Feng and Pat McLean. If you haven’t subscribed yet, now’s your chance. Outstanding offer is here.
- New Lowetide: Oilers need a first-shot scoring winger and Ryan Spooner isn’t it. So, what’s next?
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What Oilers want to see from top prospects Puljujarvi and Yamamoto
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi to the show, plus the sudden impact of Cam Hebig and Joel Persson.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 3 Prospect winter 2018: Tyler Benson.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Third line suits the eye of new Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock.
- Jonathan Willis: Can Ken Hitchcock save Milan Lucic’s Oilers career?
- Lowetide: A shot in the dark: What are the Oilers getting in Chris Wideman?
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 2 Prospect winter 2018: Kailer Yamamoto.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 1 Prospect winter 2018: Evan Bouchard.
OILERS AFTER 24
- Oilers in 2015: 8-14-2, 18 points; goal differential -13
- Oilers in 2016: 12-10-2, 26 points; goal differential +7
- Oilers in 2017: 9-13-2, 20 points; goal differential -14
- Oilers in 2018: 11-11-2, 24 points; goal differential -11
Although fans may miss the excitement of the freewheelin’ Edmonton Oilers, the two points in the standings are a lovely consolation prize. The goal differential is still ugly, but another month of Hitchcock and that should be reduced by three or four. The 2018 crew is just two points behind the playoff 2016 roster, likely the most encouraging thing about the Oilers this year.
OILERS IN NOVEMBER
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2, 10 points; goal differential -9
- Oilers in November 2016: 5-6-2, 12 points; goal differential 0
- Oilers in November 2017: 5-7-1, 11 points; goal differential -3
- Oilers in November 2018: 5-7-1, 11 points; goal differential -9
These November records are pretty much identical, save the Oilers horrid goal differential this year. One thing that should be mentioned? Edmonton’s empty net goal totals are 2-7, so you could slash five off this year’s number if you wish. Since I didn’t do that for the other seasons, I’ll keep hoeing this row.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN NOVEMBER
- At home to: Chicago (Expected 1-0-0) Actual (1-0-0)
- On the road to: Detroit, Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida (Expected 2-2-0) (Actual 1-3-0)
- At home to: Colorado, Montreal (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 1-1-0)
- On the road to: Calgary (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-1-0)
- At home to: Vegas (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-1-0)
- On the road to: San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles (Expected 2-1-0) (Actual 1-1-1)
- At home to: Dallas, Los Angeles (Expected 1-0-1) (Actual 1-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 8-5-1, 17 points in 14 games
- Current results: 5-7-1, 11 points in 13 games
One more game to go, if Edmonton can win against the Kings on Thursday night the final tally will be a mere four points off my projections. The team record for the year would be 12-11-2, 26 points in 25 games (projects to 85 points, one hot streak from my projected 90-94 points on the year).
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Garrison-Benning were 14-6 in 7:43, 8-4 shots and 2-2 in HDSC. Were 2-2 with 97, 5-3 against Nichuhskin-Faksa-Pitlick. In Hitchcock’s postgame he said they need to play better and more often “with the puck in front of them” in order to get more minutes. I think this area, along with the fourth line, are the vague areas for the coach. Vague is bad, it behooves Benning, Gravel, Garrison and Wideman to get out of vague.
- Klefbom-Larsson were 21-20 in 20:13, 12-9 shots and 1-6 HDSC. That’s a concern, the top pairing was a little leaky at some important moments in the game. Were 8-9 with McDavid, 0-4 (!!) HDSC. Were 13-13 against Benn-Seguin-Radulov. Hitchcock mentioned the team being tired, the top pair looked that way at times but overall helped the win. Nice to see Oscar score his first goal, on pace for 38 points and that would tie his career high.
- Nurse-Russell were 14-10 in 17:52, 6-7 shots, 2-2 HDSC. I thought they were good, Dallas had some big men hunting the puck and this duo mostly delivered with and without the puck. Were 7-4 with McDavid, 7-6 without, went 2-8 against Benn-Seguin-Radulov who are one of the best lines in the conference. One play that is a tell about Nurse: Late in the game, he held the puck in his own zone looking for an outlet. Jesse Puljujarvi made a sweeping move to gear up and then offered a quality outlet for Nurse. The defenseman passed on the opportunity, moved right, sent an awkward pass toward Caggiula and received an icing on the play. He needs to recognize the Puljujarvi outlet as being quality, the icing came late in a tie game. Important small item.
- Mikko Koskinen stopped 27 of 27, many of them difficult. He’s impressive. The save against Benn at the end of regulation was a giant moment, not because of the difficulty of the save, but rather because of the size of the moment. If he lets that in, Oilers fans would have been devastated. Another big win, his .923 SP has him No. 10 among NHL goalies with 10 or more games played this season.
- NHL.com and NaturalStatTrick.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Khaira-Spooner-Russell were 3-3 in 5:01, were 3-1 against Bayreuther-Polak. Spooner made a nice drive down the left side while Russell drove to the net, missed by not a lot. Spooner had three giveaways, won 63 percent of eight draws. Khaira had a penalty and a giveaway. Russell was the most impressive of the group in my opinion, he had two takeaways and might have scored if the timing had been just a hair better. Hitchcock said he needs to find Spooner a job inside the top 9 forwards, but I’d suggest Spooner needs to be a little more dynamic. He’s a streaky player, needs to get on a roll here.
- Lucic-Brodziak-Kassian were 14-9 in 11:42, 5-4 shots and Brodziak’s HDSC. I don’t know if they’ll ever score but Hitchcock is relying on this line to keep the puck miles from Koskinen. Went 12-3 against Hanley-Fedun but also 8-5 against the Radulov line. I see a lot of mocking surrounding this line, suggests to me fans don’t appreciate where the puck spends time when they’re on the ice. That’s too bad. As a long-term solution it isn’t going to work (lines need to contribute at least some offense) but this will do as a third line until Hitchcock can figure out a No. 3 line for real.
- Draisaitl-McDavid-Chiasson went 16-12 in 18:45 (Leon), 12-10 in 13:40 (Chiasson) and 2-1 in 2:04 (Puljujarvi). Chiasson had a couple of brilliant chances, McDavid scored and Leon set up the winner. Not bad for a 1-0 final. Went 9-6 in 11:19, 5-3 shots and 1-3 in HDSC. I felt the entries for this line were a little off, Dallas was standing up well and the Oilers didn’t adjust. McDavid got held a lot too, Seguin and the guy with three names were all over him. Went 9-6 against Heiskanen-Lindell. Hitchcock suggested Chiasson got tired after the first period, might have been a reason we saw Pulju get a couple of minutes. The coach is following through on his promise to get the big Finn some skill minutes.
- Caggiula-Nuge-Puljujarvi were my favorite line, hard work and some great chances. Nuge had three HDSC’s, man he’s a good player. Went 15-16 in 14:01, 8-9 shots and 2-4 HDSC. Puljujarvi skated the puck out of harm’s way a lot, blocked a big shot, trio going 9-14 against Bayreuther-Polak. I think this might have been JP’s most complete game. Hitchcock’s postgame comments talked about his being quality when the puck is on the move, but impatience being the enemy when the puck is stopped. Interesting insight.
I imagine Ken Hitchcock knows what he needs now, and if the Oilers are serious about the playoffs we could see something shake loose in the coming days. A right-winger who can score goals and play the Hitchkockian style would be the likely target, look for shooting prowess and size with speed. Bill Guerin at 25, that kind of thing.
WHO IS GOING?
What has value? The 2019 first-round pick, young players, Matt Benning, Cam Talbot, Jujhar Khaira. It’s a limited field but there are some attractive assets.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, a fun and busy group. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal. Will Oilers fans accept Hitchcock hockey if it means the playoffs? Will we see a trade for a scoring winger?
- Andrew Peard, Oil Kings PBP. Oil Kings are the most interesting edition of the club since 2014, and Trey Fix-Wolansky is tearing up the blacktop.
- Jon Campbell, Oddshark. College football bets, the Alliance, Super Bowl favourites.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!